Lessons Learned From R1S and R1T for 2026 R2 Electric SUV

By automotive-mag.com 14 Min Read

Rivian had been teasing the all-new electric R2 platform for quite a while, and for the most part we thought we had a pretty good handle on what we could expect. We knew that Rivian needed a smaller, more affordable model that could be the volume vehicle that the startup automaker needs on the road to profitability. For the most part, that’s exactly what Rivian revealed when the R2 rolled out during the livestreamed reveal. For all intents and purposes, the R2 is essentially a baby R1S electric SUV. The R2 keeps Rivian’s familiar and attractive design language and brand personality all in a package that starts at $45,000, and we got a chance to walk around it with Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe and the electric SUV’s designer Jeff Hammoud for more details.

It all looks pretty attractive at first glance, and we aren’t the only ones that think so. In less than 24 hours after the debut, the CEO revealed that the automaker had already taken over 68,000 R2 reservations. Though, for perspective a reservation only takes $100 and considering that the R2 isn’t releasing until the “second half of 2026,” making a reservation is relatively easy and low risk.

What does seem risky is Rivian jumping into a new model when, technically, its current models haven’t reached profitability yet. We sat down with Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe and Chief Design Officer Jeff Hammoud to discuss how the R2 platform benefits from the lessons learned from R1 and what the future of the R2 platform, which has already spawned the surprise R3 and fun R3X electric SUVs as well.

How Does R2 Benefit From R1?

As the adage says, “the first kid is always the hardest.” For a startup automaker like the Rivian, getting the R1T and R1S to market was likely no easy task and is an ongoing challenge. We’re sure Rivian ran up against many “first time” problems in the process of R1’s production. Our first question to Scaringe was how the R2 platform benefits from Rivian’s experience producing the R1?

“R2 benefits from the collective learnings we’ve had from launching R1T, R1S, and then the updates that are coming to R1T [and] R1S,” said Scaringe. “In the second quarter this year, we’re making some big changes to the network architecture, [and] ECU topology. So, R2 captures all those learnings. And then as a vehicle it’s been architected from day one to a much lower price point. And with a set of suppliers that are really enthusiastic about this,” the CEO said.

“I think this part’s not maybe immediately obvious, but when we negotiate with a lot of our suppliers, we’re negotiating in 2018, 2019, 2020. So, it’s a tough for us as an unknown brand and unknown products to be putting together those long-term contracts, whereas with R2 and R3, folks can see the success of R1 and there’s a ton of excitement from our supplier partners to really go help us deliver on these aggressive cost targets to allow for a price point with that level of performance, that level of capability. In terms of technologies, some of the things you probably would expect a lot of focus on, [like] part consolidation and part elimination, so large castings are used throughout the structure,” said Scaringe.

“We’re really simplifying how we think about the battery pack. So, it’s a pack to use a much larger diameter cell. So, it’s a 4695 instead of a 2170. It’s structural. The top of the pack is the floor of the vehicle. The closure systems in the vehicle are much simpler than what we had in R1.”

The battery pack design is of note here and it’s no mistake why Scaringe made a point to mention it during the R2 reveal. Recently, analysts have blamed Rivian’s high production costs on the R1’s skateboard chassis and battery back being too “complicated.” If Rivian’s engineers managed to simplify the battery pack production process for the R2 platform, it will be a significant win for the automaker’s balance sheets and in the eyes of investors.

Can Rivian Cut Costs In R2’s Production?

Simplification of the R2’s construction will also go a long way in helping the vehicle reach a profitable production volume in a faster time frame. Rivian announced that it is pausing construction on its new plant in Georgia, which originally would have been home to the R2’s production. It will join the R1S and R1T at Rivian’s Normal, Illinois plant instead. Rivian has until 2030 to ultimately make good on its promise to Georgia for a new factory and jobs.

We won’t blame anyone who gets red flags from that decision, however. One of Rivian’s major obstacles to profitability is the production capacity of its plant in Normal. In 2023, the plant produced just over 57,200 vehicles with approximately 50,100 of them being delivered. That’s between three vehicles (R1T, R1S, and Amazon EDV), and now a fourth vehicle that already has over 68,000 reservations is being added to the mix. Rivian needs to have swift and streamlined production for the R2 or those reservation holders will be waiting for a very long time. Though, Scaringe is confident that Rivian has things figured out.

“We’ve been able to, from the get-go, really optimize how the vehicle comes together in terms of assembly sequence, leveraging everything we learned of what it took to build R1,” said Scaringe. “So, the build process or what, you know, what are the steps involved with taking a set of parts and turning them into a car has really had a lot of debate and dialogue around it and how the design of the vehicle has to look to facilitate that.”

Maintaining the Rivian design language and brand personality with the R2 while also keeping production costs down was one of the major challenges Rivian Chief Design Officer Jeff Hammoud faced, he told us: “One of the biggest challenges for R2 was ‘how do we expand the brand and take all the key elements that we love about R1, but put it in a smaller, more affordable package?’,” said Hammoud during our design discussion.

“R1 was designed through addition. It was our premium flagship. We got to say ‘yes’ to a lot of things. With R2, to get the price point down, what do we need to say ‘no’ to? There’s a lot of features in R1 and we didn’t want R2 to lose the essence of the Rivian brand. So there’s been a lot of discussions, a lot of debates with the engineering team, myself and RJ [Scaringe] in the studio really thinking about what are the key things that need to carry over [from R1] but also feels different,” Hammoud said.

“We are intentionally building off of the success of R1 but really trying to narrow down ‘what is the essence of Rivian,;” he added. “For us as the Rivian brand, you won’t see something in our vehicles where the rear glass doesn’t drop completely,” said Hammoud. “If you look at a lot of cars in this segment, they either don’t have full glass drop or in order to enable it they have to have a div (division) bar. So we spent a lot of time packaging and working with the engineering team to find a way that we could wheelbase in the right place, the occupants in the right place, and the B-pillar in the right place. And with our design language of this body pillar/seat pillar it enabled us to come up with something that requires no div bar, has the glass go all the way down, and most of all for us it reduces cost because now we’re not paying for a div bar, we’re not paying for an extra piece of glass and we’re still getting the same user experience.”

“The way I was describe vehicle development is it’s thousands and thousands of decisions,” says Scaringe. “Some of those are really big decisions, like what type of battery cell. But then there’s countless small decisions, but they all need to aggregate together to feel like the products holistically had the right set of tradeoffs. With R2, the constraints on the number of things we say yes to is just tighter that what we could do in the R1.”

The R2’s Off-Road Tradeoff

Alright, so both Scaringe and Hammoud have alluded to some sacrifices being made to keep costs down for the R2, but what is the real trade-off for the end consumer? Besides the R2 being physically smaller, it appears that the area in which Scaringe had to say “no” to was off-road features. Where the R1 platform has independent air suspension and hydraulic roll control specifically for off-road capability, the R2 won’t have those features. Not even as an option. Though, Scaringe did say that the R2’s dampers will have “some level of semi-active functionality.”

It should also be clear that the R2 isn’t completely without any off-road capability. The R2 will have nearly 10 inches of ground clearance with a 25-degree approach angle and 27-degree rear departure angle. It will also have passive anti-roll bars and a traditional coilover suspension. So, the R2 will definitely have some of the bits it needs to go off the beaten path, but it just won’t be as capable as an R1T or R1S on the more challenging trails.

R2 Pickup Truck?

If we’re being honest, we had an inkling that Scaringe and Rivian would pull a “one more thing” like Apple does and roll out a second vehicle during the R2’s livestream reveal. However, we thought that second vehicle would be a truck. Instead, we were surprised to see the R3 hatchback instead. While it was a pleasant surprise, it left us wondering if an R2 truck was coming. After all, The R1 platform has a SUV and truck and considering the popularity of the Ford Maverick, we think a mid-sized electric pickup truck would do well. Both Scaringe and Hammoud both suggested that an R2 truck is in the cards but stopped short of confirming it.

“So, we talked about platform capability and flexibility, and we showed it through the lens of R3,” said Scaringe. “And R3 was probably beyond what you guys were thinking coming in. So, if you imagine R3 representing a stretch or an extension of what’s possible on the platform, there’s lots of things you can imagine between R3 and R2.  And so long term, when we say this is a platform, we do see a host of products that can exist on it,” Scaringe said. “That’s the beautiful part about creating platforms,” said Hammoud. “They give us opportunities to look at other things, but I can’t talk about those things.”

It’s an expected response but hey, we had to give it a try, right? Now that Rivian has shown part of its hand, it’s on them to deliver. If there weren’t enough eyes on them before, there are now. R2 could be a make or break moment for the automaker, and we’re looking forward to driving it in the far off time of 2026 or later. At least they’re not overpromising on the release date like some other automakers like to, right?

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *